Catherine Phipps 2016

Fallon Fox is the first openly transgender athlete in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), after transitioning from male to female in 2006. Since publically coming out as transgender in 2013, Fox has received media attention and transphobic verbal abuse, mainly due to perceptions she has an unfair advantage over cisgender female opponents, and therefore should not be fighting in women’s divisions within MMA. Most notably, opposition has come from Ronda Rousey (former UFC women’s bantamweight champion), Dana White (president of the UFC) and Joe Rogan (sports commentator for the UFC). Drawing on interview and questionnaire data from research on LGBT+ inclusion in sport more widely, this presentation will discuss binary models of gender in sport which often create barriers for transgender people. The presentation will also focus on the poor reception many transgender athletes receive in sport (particularly male-to-female transgender athletes), transphobic abuse towards Fallon Fox, and the controversy surrounding her participation in women’s MMA.

Key Words: Transgender; Transphobia; LGBT+; Mixed Martial Arts


Biographical Note

Catherine Phipps is a PhD student at the University of Greenwich, London, researching LGBT+ inclusion in university-based sport. Her research interests include women’s involvement and motivations in a range of combat sports, including boxing, MMA and Muay Thai. In 2015 she co-wrote a chapter in the book Global Perspectives on Women in Combat Sports: Women Warriors around the World, edited by Alex Channon and Christopher R. Matthews. As a martial artist, she holds a 4th degree black belt in Taekwondo and currently trains and competes in boxing and Muay Thai.